Two thirds of African cities face ‘extreme climate risk’

In this file photo taken on July 7, 2014 children wait in line during a food distribution by the Word Food Programme (WFP) at a school in Bangui. (AFP)
Updated 14 November 2018
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Two thirds of African cities face ‘extreme climate risk’

  • The data also showed that some of the most populous cities on Earth — including Delhi, Mumbai, Mexico City and Karachi — were all at “high-risk” of damage to their economies and populations

PARIS: Rapid population growth and poor infrastructure have put two out of three cities in Africa at “extreme risk” of the threats posed by climate change, according to a new analysis released Wednesday.
With UN figures showing 86 of the world’s 100 fastest-growing cities are in Africa, experts warned nearly half of the continent’s GDP was exposed to the perils posed by our warming planet.
The findings were laid out in the 2018 Climate Vulnerability Index which calculates an overall risk figure from more than 50 separate data sources, including state-of-the-art climate models, socio-economic factors and demographic trends.
It found Bangui in the Central African Republic, Liberia’s capital Monrovia and the Congolese city of Mbuji-Mayi to be the three most at-risk cities.
Eight African cities featured in the index’s top 10.
“It’s really assessing the ability to withstand climate-related shocks and this is what makes African economies stand out as at risk compared to the rest of the world,” said Niall Smith, an environment analyst at Verisk Maplecroft, which compiled the index.
The British-based risk consultancy also singled out DR Congo’s capital Kinshasa as being of particular concern for investors.
Currently home to 13.2 million people, the city regularly experiences weather events such as cyclones and flooding, which will cause greater disruption as the population swells to 26.7 million by 2035.
“Urban population growth at this projected rate will, without doubt, intensify the city’s alarming risk profile,” they said.
“Africa’s megacities already face issues like lack of clean water, sanitation and shelter.”
The study found that as much as 47 percent of Africa’s GDP — an amount totalling close to $1.4 trillion (1.24 tn euros) — to be at “extreme risk” from climate change by 2023, significantly higher as a percentage than any other continent.
“By no means are we saying don’t invest in these locations,” Richard Hewston, principal climate change and environmental analyst at Verisk told AFP.
“But climate risk should be one of the elements you consider. There’s a huge opportunity for investors and we would say that you need to go in with your eyes open by doing due diligence beforehand.”

The data also showed that some of the most populous cities on Earth — including Delhi, Mumbai, Mexico City and Karachi — were all at “high-risk” of damage to their economies and populations due to climate change.
Scientists in May released the findings of a study suggesting that prompt global action to tackle climate change could save the world economy $20 tn by the end of the century.
But in many nations domestic political concerns still trump climate action.
Hewston gave New York as an example of a city with the technical know-how and political will to invest in climate defenses after it was ravaged by Hurricane Sandy in 2012.
“But if you’re looking for other cities, say in Africa, or Dhaka or Mumbai, they also have competing aspects they look to fund so things like climate resilience don’t always top the list,” he said.
Verisk found that British cities of Glasgow, Edinburgh and Belfast were the three cities best prepared to manage the impact of climate change.


The Taliban have not changed, warn Afghans living under their rule

Updated 3 min 18 sec ago
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The Taliban have not changed, warn Afghans living under their rule

KANDAHAR, Afghanistan: Ali Ahmad Alizai has no choice but to obey when the Taliban come knocking on his door demanding food, shelter or a slice of his hard-earned harvest to fund their insurgency.
“The Taliban run a dictatorship here. They have their own laws. We have some security, but no freedom,” the farmer told AFP by telephone from a militant-controlled district of Afghanistan’s southern Helmand province.
Alizai is one of millions living under Taliban rule in Afghanistan, where the group controls more territory than at any time since being toppled in 2001 by US-led forces.
As momentum for peace talks builds, with a fresh round of negotiations between the Taliban and Washington set to begin in Doha on Monday, testimonies from Afghans like him paint a picture of what life might be like should the militants return to power as the US exits its longest war.
In some ways Taliban governance appears to have evolved, with the insurgents open to some small compromises as Afghans refuse to part with their hard-won freedoms.
But zeal for the harsh brand of Islamic justice that defined their former regime is unwavering, and remains pivotal to enforcing obedience today in countryside under its influence.
Abdul Bari, who abandoned his home in an insurgent fiefdom in Uruzgan province three months ago, spoke darkly of life under the white flag of the Taliban.
“They would stage public executions from time to time,” the 66-year-old told AFP in Kandahar, where he fled with his family.
“Their fighters would decide the fate of people.”


Taliban courts preside over justice in huge swathes of the country — even areas ostensibly under government control, said Ashley Jackson, a research associate with the Overseas Development Institute.
Verdicts under their own strict interpretation of Sharia law are swift, and punishments severe, from limbs amputated for theft to condemned prisoners hung by roadsides as a warning.
“People are terrified of them,” said Sayed Omar, who escaped Taliban brutality in Uruzgan.
“They have not changed, they are the same as they were during their rule.”
Mohammad Qasem, a shopkeeper who spoke to AFP by phone from another Taliban bastion in Kandahar, said the militants had banned smartphones and confined women to the home — effectively reversing the clock to 1996, when they stormed to power.
But they were “a bit easier” on men having shorter beards — a floggable offense under their former regime.
The Taliban have told AFP they want to establish “an Islamic system” as opposed to the democracy built since 2001, but that they have modified their stance on some issues including dropping a ban on the education of women and girls.
AFP was unable to speak to any women currently living under Taliban rule.
Human Rights Watch senior researcher Heather Barr said in some areas the militants now allow girls to attend primary school, “if it was segregated by gender, the teachers were female, and the Taliban controlled the curriculum.”
However, it was “ridiculous and harmful” to suggest that proved the Taliban had softened their stance on women, she said.
“Limiting girls to primary education is an extreme form of misogyny ... Too many men are in a rush to argue that a Taliban deal will be fine for women. Women know better — but is anyone listening to them?“
Qasem said the restrictions were unpopular. Times have changed since the Taliban were deposed, he added.
“This time, if they don’t change, it might create a backlash,” he told AFP.
There are some signs the insurgents are listening.
Phone use is permitted during the day and televisions watched without fear of punishment, a far cry from the violent Taliban purges against technology in the past.
“What they say is don’t listen to music, listen to sermons and religious programs. But there is no smashing of TV sets anymore,” Thomas Ruttig, from the Afghanistan Analysts Network, told AFP.


The Taliban are also keen to show they can govern a modern nation.
In territory where control is split with the government, the militants ensure teachers and clinic staff show up for work and prod electricity providers to fix power outages.
Jackson said this Taliban “shadow government” exists partly to embarrass corrupt local politicians, but also to exert soft power and demonstrate competence.
“It’s both carrot and stick. I think they realize they have to provide... some tangible benefit,” Jackson said.
Mullah Rauf, a former Taliban commander, said the insurgents had evolved.
“They can’t have a hard-line government anymore. Nowhere in the world do such governments exist,” he told AFP by telephone from Panjwaee, a Taliban district in Kandahar.
As America pushes for a peace deal, many Afghans want to know the Taliban’s intentions once foreign troops leave.
The militants say they do not want to rule by force, but share power with other parties.
Taliban justice is one area “where compromise will be the hardest,” Jackson said.
Ruttig said the militants had not abandoned their ideology, but know “they cannot rule against the population,” and therefore might be open to some compromise.
“But whether that’s good enough for most Afghans — who now have tasted completely different freedoms than what they had under the Taliban — that will be up to the Afghan population,” Ruttig said.